This haleem recipe is almost too good to share

This haleem recipe is almost too good to share

Haleem is one of the original “generosity dishes”, meaning it was always prepared with the intention of sharing.
10 Sep, 2019

This article was originally published on 1 October, 2017.

During my wonder years, the 10th of Muharram meant a pulao degh being made at my parents’ home, and a haleem degh at my nani’s. Needless to say the haleem was delicious — hot, spicy, flavourful and (for a child) consumable only with a few bottles of soda. However as I entered my teens, my tolerance for spice went up and my appreciation for haleem went up even further.

I have been researching South Asian foods for some years now, and my fascination for our cuisine grows with time. Our foods have travelled regions, jumped cuisines, evolved and survived the test of time, hence earning an elite status amongst the cuisines of the world, and haleem is one such dish.

It is said to be one of the original “generosity dishes”, meaning it was always prepared with the intention of sharing with others. It is believed that the recipe of Middle Eastern harissa, written millennia ago, is what haleem actually evolved from. Harissa, according to food historian Claudia Roden is the parent of haleem and is believed to be an Arab specialty rather than a Muslim one.

Haleem is said to be one of the original “generosity dishes”, meaning it was always prepared with the intention of sharing with others

The medieval Andalusian Jews ate it on Saturdays, a day of Sabbath for them. The Lebanese and Syrian Christians make harissa to celebrate the Feast of the Assumption. And in Iraq, Lebanon and the subcontinent, Shia Muslims made it to commemorate the martyrdom of Imam Hussain at Karbala in the month of Muharram.

It was perhaps Mughal Emperor Humayun who brought the recipe of haleem to the subcontinent, but apparently it was his son Akbar who made it popular across the board, from troops to the throne. It is originally a slow-cooking dish and its name in Arabic even means ‘patience’.

Here is something interesting that I stumbled upon some years ago when researching the history of haleem.

Ciezadlo in her article History on a Plate, quotes in the article Food Stories, Haleem:

“In the late 7th century, Caliph Mu’awiya of Damascus, received a delegation of Arabian Yemenis. According to medieval historians who wrote about the encounter, the Caliph’s first question to his visitors addressed something more urgent than political matters. Years earlier, on a journey to Arabia, he had eaten an exquisite dish, a porridge of meat and wheat. Did they know how to make it? They did.

It was perhaps Mughal Emperor Humayun who brought the recipe of haleem to the subcontinent, but apparently it was his son Akbar who made it popular across the board, from troops to the throne

"The first written recipe of harissa [haleem], dates from the 10th century, when a scribe named Ibn Sayyar al-Warraq compiled a cookbook of the dishes favored by the caliphs. The version described in his Kitab al-Tabikh (Book of Dishes), the world’s oldest surviving Arabic cookbook, is strikingly similar to the one people in the Middle East eat to this day.”

This Muharram, I am torn between making pulao like my mother did, or haleem like my nani did. Maybe I’m going to end up making both. That’s not such a bad idea after all.



1 cup wheat

¼ cup plus 1 tbsp barley

¼ cup white maash (urud) dal

¼ cup moong dal

¼ cup masoor dal

¼ cup basmati rice

1 cup channa dal

½ to ¾ cup oil

2 ½ lbs preferably boneless veal or beef stew (without fat), mutton and chicken can be used as well

1 ½ cup chicken or beef stock

1 ½ heaped tablespoon red chilli powder (increase or decrease according to taste if needed)

Salt to taste

2 to 3 tablespoons ginger garlic paste,

1 tablespoon heaped coriander powder

1 ½ teaspoon level turmeric powder

1 ½ large onions sliced for frying

Ingredients for sealed pot cooking

1 level teaspoon garam masala powder, ¼ teaspoon nutmeg powder, ¼ teaspoon mace powder, ½ teaspoon black cumin, ½ teaspoon green, cardamom powder

Ingredients for Garnish or served on the side

Lemon wedges, chopped cilantro and green chillies, fried onions, julienned ginger, chaat masala, yoghurt and naan.


Wash and soak all seven grains for 6 to 8 hours. In a pan, fry onions until golden-brown, adding meat, ginger, garlic, chilli powder, turmeric, coriander powder, stock and salt. Cook until korma is tender.

In a large separate pot, boil pre-soaked grains until tender, approximately for 2 to 2 ½ hours.

Eyeball the water quantity (for boiling and cooking) depending on the required consistency and thickness of the haleem.

Once boiled, put grains in blender and blend roughly, pouring the blended grains back in the pot for cooking.

Repeat the blending process with the meat korma, pouring the roughly blended korma into the cooking grains.

Mix thoroughly on low to medium flame, stirring constantly.

Cook and stir until the correct consistency, tasting for salt and chilli content. The haleem must be well blended.

Now add all five sealed-pot ingredients and mix well. Seal the pot and let steam for a few minutes.

Garnish and serve with a side of naan, if desired. This one is a sure-shot hit — nothing short of a professionally made street-food deghi haleem. Enjoy.

The writer is a journalist and her debut novel *Feast, With A Taste of Amir Khusro is up for release this Autumn*

Originally published in Dawn, EOS, October 1st, 2017


Gaurav Oct 01, 2017 02:07pm
I prepared it using Soyabean
Foodie Oct 01, 2017 02:46pm
Don't agree that it should be well blended. There need to be a level of grain to give the texture and mouthfullness to the dish. remember it can be eaten as a stand alone dish and not always require rice to be served with it.
Amer RAO Oct 01, 2017 03:59pm
Thank you for sharing Haleem recipe.
Khalid Shahzad Oct 01, 2017 04:17pm
Very good recepie. Today our neighbours prepared a Dag of Haleem and a big bowl of it sent to us which was very delicious
FA Oct 01, 2017 07:32pm
There is a bayleaf in the photo!!!
Sultan Alvi, Toronto Oct 02, 2017 01:06am
I know patience is one of my good traits, but I did not acquire it by eating Haleem. Good article, thank you.
Asif Oct 02, 2017 02:11am
oh please, love haleem but your method is not worth following.
M. Emad Oct 02, 2017 03:10am
Old-Dhaka city haleem best in the world !
SUNNY Oct 02, 2017 04:43am
Amazing! I will try. Thanks for the article Bismah!
Vic Oct 02, 2017 08:10am
Blending the grain gives it a diseased pasty look for sick people---. The best appearance is the whole grain and fully cooked shredded meat.
Vic Oct 02, 2017 08:11am
@Foodie ---thank you---I hate that blended look and never eat it---rather throw it away---. The cooked grain and fully cooked meat is the real thing.
Khaled Oct 02, 2017 08:24am
Is there some one kind enough as to enlighten me, if the correct name of the dish is "haleem" or "daleem" ?
M. Emad Oct 02, 2017 08:37am
Best haleem of the world in old-Dhaka city.
TAlHA BIN HAMID Oct 02, 2017 12:47pm
Pro tip: if you lack the time and skills to follow this recipe, Shan's Haleem mix will prepare the perfect haleem. Don't scoff - try it first!
maria usman Oct 03, 2017 10:40am
The word is harees in Arabic.
khan Oct 05, 2017 05:12am
@maria usman and now people say its called daleem not haleem ??
Jatin Sep 10, 2019 10:32am
Am hungry...
Helping Hands Sep 10, 2019 01:06pm
@TAlHA BIN HAMID I did but it gives an overly blended version of haleem, rather the more appreciated grainy one. That said, there are two versions of haleem masala available in Shan, one with the powder (for the lazy among us, yours truly included) and the other with the grains that require soaking and boiling, etc. The choice is yours.
Vikas Sep 10, 2019 01:20pm
Very good and very necessary to share food in Pakistan. Majority of Pakistanis cannot even afford naan or roti and the government cannot afford to subsidise the same. The rich should look out for the poor till they can and feed them at least naan and rotis.
SkinHead Sep 10, 2019 01:37pm
I have cooked Haleem, Nihari, Qorma, Biryani for my friends in the west. The top requested item has always been Nihari, followed by Haleem. Truly amazing food.
khabboo Sep 10, 2019 02:25pm
Haleem or Daleem?
Srinivas Sep 10, 2019 03:53pm
its a famous in Hyderabad India.. we love this Haleem
Shah Sep 10, 2019 04:21pm
Haleem is popular among my 3rd generation "Pakistani-Norwegian" children who normally do not like chapati-based dinners. A taste of Pakistan far away from our land of origin.
saksci Sep 10, 2019 05:23pm
Akbar did not have blender in his time; it should be slow cooking.
hamza khan Sep 10, 2019 08:15pm
@M. Emad lol. ok...
Syed Hafeez Imran Sep 10, 2019 11:45pm
@FA very observant. There is no mention of the bayleaf in the recope
Syed Hafeez Imran Sep 10, 2019 11:47pm
@Asif and pray why not. What is YOUR recipe. please do share it The recipe is From scratch. There are ready made mixes available, which to me is at best a compromise - offering ease against some loss of flavour \
Syed Hafeez Imran Sep 10, 2019 11:49pm
@Vic Haleem IS blended with smooth consistency . What you describe is Khichra. Have your choice; but let the purists enjoy haleem blended and smooth
Syed Hafeez Imran Sep 10, 2019 11:50pm
@Khaled it is HAleem. never heard the Daleem version!!
Jamil Sep 11, 2019 01:59am
@maria usman I am not sure of "Harees" in Arabic but "Harees" is similar to "Haleem" called "Hareesa" in Kashmir.
Richa Sep 11, 2019 03:23am
Akbar was a vegetarian and he was realized soul as mentioned by sage Vivekananda. Haleem was cooked in 1930 for Nizam of Hyderabad India.
optimist Sep 12, 2019 12:43am
@Foodie here is no mention of rice in this article. If you have a better receipt why not share it.
Imran Sep 12, 2019 02:21am
That is not an original recipe especially the method which is I may say a lazy cooks version. The correct procedure for blending must be done with a flat bottom ladle......very common in Pakistan. In fact to cook it properly to have the correct flavour haleem taste better made with your heart and patience. Such a shame and waste of readding time.
Fatima Sep 12, 2019 03:21am
@maria usman Harees is with lamb.
RPK Sep 12, 2019 11:59am
@Gaurav You are Veg as me, I assume. I will also ask my wife to try. We have Slow Cooker, the Daal etc. can cooked for whole night without any worry.